Tag Archives: Laura Jabalee Johnston

Artist Profile: Ali Joy Richardson, Director

Ali Joy Richardson and Laura Jabalee Johnston (plus lighting designer Steph Raposo) went straight from working on Sarah Ruhl’s dark-ish comedy The Clean House (closed April 22) for Alumnae Theatre Company to this new project: Sophia Fabiilli’s delightful modern farce, Liars At A Funeral.     Running to May 14 at St. Vladimir Theatre  (620 Spadina Ave., Toronto).

https://truthnliestheatre.com/

 

inthegreenroom

Interview by Hallie Seline

We’re all about hard-working #bossbabes being at the helm of the theatre we see, so it was such a joy to catch up with Ali Joy Richardson to discuss her latest directing project, Liars at a Funeral, why her directing mentors have been instrumental in assembling her own director’s utility belt, and the top three pieces of advice she’s living by right now. 

HS: Tell me a bit about your current directing project, Liars at a Funeral, and what caught your interest when deciding to direct it.

Ali Joy Richardson:Liars at a Funeral is set in a funeral home in Northern Ontario where a grandmother has faked her own death in order to get her family back together for Christmas. It’s a farce: 4 doors, 5 actors playing 9 characters, and a family curse of female twins who hate one another…but without the stale sexism…

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Lynn Himmelman’s ‘Laughing Workshop’, April 20 (a pre-show event re: “The Clean House”

Sarah Ruhl’s play The Clean House addresses the topics of love, betrayal, and loss; and shows – as one review put it – “the funny world of love and relationships”.  One of the themes running through the play is laughter: the character of reluctant housecleaner Matilde (Marina Moreira) is an aspiring comedian, constantly trying to come up with the perfect joke.

Producer Laura Jabalee Johnston and assistant director Nevada Banks got ‘laughter coach’ Lynn Himmelman to do a one-hour session for The Clean House audience, pre-show on Thursday evening (April 20).

Lynn, who said she used to be an opera singer, shared with the group an incident showing how laughter helped her overcome the loss of her father.  She had everyone do exercises like the Knee Slapper, laughing while pretending to read a credit card bill, and laughing continuously for 60 seconds.

Several people commented on the unexpected workout that laughing gave their ab muscles, and one was heard to mutter, “No more sit-ups, ever again!”

At the end of the session, one participant remarked that “Everyone seems better-looking now!”

Lynn agreed:  “Everyone’s light is shining.”

 

Teresa Bottaro, Alumnae Theatre Company’s Director of Marketing, shot some video of Lynn leading the group in the Knee Slapper exercise.

And I bet the ‘Laughter’ workshop was the reason that this audience had the most vocal response to The Clean House that I’ve seen during the show’s run.

Check out Lynn Himmelman’s website for more info: http://lynn.sites.toronto.com/

The last two performances of The Clean House are at 8pm on Friday, April 21 and Saturday, April 22.

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First stumble-through for “The Clean House”, March 21

Bloggergal was a little late arriving, and missed the first few minutes of the stumble-through for The Clean House.  ‘Stumble-through’ is theatre parlance for an early run of the play that is expected to be rough.  In many cases, as with this one, the set is not finished; there is minimal tech (essential music cues were provided courtesy of director Ali Joy Richardson’s laptop; and she read out the content of lines that will be projected on the backdrop) or props; and actors are not completely off-book (there were a few calls for “Line!”, which stage manager Lizz Armstrong provided).

Virginia (Annemieke Wade – standing) tries to comfort her sister Lane (Andrea Irwin) in rehearsal shot from “The Clean House”.
Photo: Laura Jabalee Johnston

The other team members in the audience were Assistant Director Nevada Banks, props designer Helen Monroe, set designer Orly Zebak, lighting designer Steph Raposo, set construction assistant Lucy McPhee, sound designer Nick Potter, and producer Laura Jabalee Johnston.

Bloggergal spent much of Act I (which Lizz estimates will run about 50 minutes) noting funny dialogue exchanges – like these, between Matilde (Marina Moreira), an aspiring comedian from Brazil, currently working as a housekeeper in Connecticut.  She is speaking with her employer’s sister, Virginia (Annemieke Wade):

MATILDE (confessing):    I don’t like to clean so much.

VIRGINIA:            I like cleaning.

MATILDE:            Why?

……..

MATILDE:            Do you want to hear a joke?

VIRGINIA:            Not really.

MATILDE:            Why not?

VIRGINIA:            I don’t like to laugh out loud.

Then there was the heartbreaking monologue delivered by Virginia’s sister/Matilde’s employer, Lane (Andrea Irwin), when she learns that her husband is having an affair.  “This is how I imagine my husband and his new wife,” she tells us, as Charles (Neil Silcox) and Ana (Lilia Leon) twine lovingly on a riser* at stage left.      Matilde can see this vision.  “Who are they?” she asks Lane.  “Just my husband and the woman he loves,” Lane replies.  “Don’t worry, they’re only in my imagination.”

In Act II, Neil as the cheating hubby did a very funny striptease as he attempted to join ladylove Ana for a swim – he had not practiced removing all the necessary parts of his costume!  “Just take off the belt,” recommended director Ali.  So Neil whipped off his belt and flourished it dramatically, causing bloggergal and AD Nevada to dissolve into giggles.

Annemieke personified gleeful joy as she… – well, let’s just say she lets loose and does something quite out of character (but scripted) for clean-freak Virginia!

At one point, Lane and Ana were on the balcony, but missing a crucial prop.  Ali called backstage: “Neil, could you just run the fishbowl out?”  But he didn’t just bring the thing out and plunk it down, oh no.  He entered all bundled up in his costume for a later scene, making wind-whooshing noises, and delivered the bowl with another dramatic flourish.  More cracking up ensued in the audience; the actors displayed impressive focus and kept straight faces.

Director Ali Joy Richardson (centre – in dark sweater, back to camera) and assistant director Nevada Banks (left – in horse sweater) give notes to cast of “The Clean House” following March 21 stumble-through. L-R: Lilia Leon, Neil Silcox, Andrea Irwin, Marina Moreira, Annemieke Wade. Photo: Laura Jabalee Johnston.

A delightful taste of what’s to come – in 2-1/2 weeks!

In this script, playwright Sarah Ruhl is a master at making the audience snort with laughter one moment, and be on the verge of tears the next.

The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl runs April 7-22 at Alumnae Theatre.

See http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/the-clean-house.html for team bios and photos, and to purchase tickets.  Also visit the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1301005259957126/

 

       *the riser is standing in tonight for what will become a balcony!

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First read-through of “The Clean House”, Feb 21

Last night in the lobby* of Alumnae Theatre, director Ali Richardson presented her cast doing a first read-through of the script of The Clean House, the final show in Alumnae Theatre Company’s season.  It was the first time many of the cast had met, but they did an amazing job, aided by producer Laura Jabalee Johnston’s reading of the often-funny stage directions.  Also present for this first read were set designer Orly Zebak, costume designer Daina Valiulis, props designer Helen Monroe, and sound designer Nick Potter.   Stage Manager Lizz Armstrong and Production Manager/lighting designer Steph Raposo unfortunately could not be there; they’re currently working on other shows.  Several Alumnae Theatre Company reps attended by invitation, including bloggergal (yours truly), Alumnae’s President Brenda Darling, and marketing team members Carina Cojeen (who took the photo) and Jeanette Dagger.

Sarah Ruhl’s delightful and semi-mystical play The Clean House was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in Drama.

L-R: Annemieke Wade (Virginia), Lilia Leon (Ana), Andrea Irwin (Lane), Marina Moreira (Matilde), Laura Jabalee Johnston (producer), Ali Richardson (director) at the first read. Neil Silcox (Charles) would be at far left. Photo: Carina Cojeen.

L-R: Annemieke Wade (Virginia), Lilia Leon (Ana), Andrea Irwin (Lane), Marina Moreira (Matilde), Laura Jabalee Johnston (producer), Ali Richardson (director) at the first read. Neil Silcox (Charles) would be at far left. Photo: Carina Cojeen.

In it, Lane (played by Andrea Irwin) is a buttoned-up workaholic Connecticut doctor who hires a young Brazilian woman, Matilde (Marina Moreira) as her housekeeper.  But Matilde (the Portugese pronounciation is approximately “ma-chil-jee”) hates to clean – she’d rather spend her time coming up with the perfect joke.  Lane’s sister, Virginia (Annemieke Wade), a bored but smart-mouthed stay-at-home wife, is a confidante to both.   Lane’s surgeon husband Charles (Neil Silcox) is mentioned, but conspicuously absent for almost all of Act I.  He shows up in Act II, falling madly in love with one of his patients, Ana (Lilia Leon).  The resulting love triangle was played out both comically and with deep emotion – a beautiful balancing act by the actors, especially at this early stage.

 

Looking forward to seeing this production as it develops in rehearsals!  The finished article will be presented on the Main Stage at Alumnae Theatre, April 7 – 22.

See the Facebook event (https://www.facebook.com/events/1301005259957126/) and Alumnae Theatre website for more info and news.

PERFORMANCES:  Wed – Sat at 8pm; Sun 2pm.

TICKETS:  2-for-1 Wed; $20 on Thu/Fri/Sat; PWYC Sun.
Purchase online in advance (http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/tickets.html), or reserve and pay cash on arrival.  Please note that in-person sales are cash only; no credit or debit cards accepted at Box Office.
RESERVATIONS: 416-364-4170, Box 1 or reservations@alumnaetheatre.com.

 

*because every other space in the building was in use – no kidding!  Rehearsals for New Ideas Festival (opening March 8) on both the 2nd floor and in the Studio; and Toronto Irish Players are renting the mainstage for The Night Joe Dolan’s Car Broke Down (running to March 4).

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